I remember that day very well. It was my D-Day, my designated day, my destined Day for it was my first interview as a staff nurse in one of the most prestigious hospitals in town.
“Remember to take all your certificates and documents,” said my mom. “Be at ease, don’t panic for anything.”
“No, don’t worry. I’ll manage well.” I replied calmly.
“After all, the profession you have chosen is noble; it is also emotionally fulfilling and rewarding too. Try to make the best of it.”
I checked my file once again. Everything was in order. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“What time is the local?” she asked.
“8.30.” I said curtly.
“I told you, I told you…..Now you have no time to eat. I told you to begin early and to keep extra time for unwinding when you reach there. On important days you should be on your toes, your attention should never waver from your aim and purpose. Everything else should take a back seat.” mom went on and on.
“Even otherwise how can I eat so early? Anyway don’t worry; I will eat something substantial before I face the interviewer.” I retorted.
“Okay take care and all the best. Come back with the job. God goes with you.”
The train was on time. I boarded it and looked for a seat. Getting one I sat down and thought about all the possible questions the team or the Dean might ask. I then tried to read the Reader’s Digest I had brought along with me. Somehow I felt calm and light hearted. It was a fast train and I was sure to be on time.
My destination station arrived and I got down. I had a lot of time now. The cafeteria in the Station was popular for its hygiene and prompt service. I made my way there to eat something light. As I neared the counter to buy a coupon I saw a strange beggar near the trestle, but he was not in the queue. He had very dull blood stains on his crumpled and lustreless shirt. His hair was all dishevelled and shabby. He looked famished with tired eyes, sleep deprived, so hungry and thirsty. But, there was something about him that was captivating. He looked at me, maybe trying to evoke pity in me. ‘Poor thing, he must have got into a brawl with some hooligan and got hurt and the small cuts must have discharged blood and he must have washed it, yet the stains stuck there adamantly. And due to lack of medical care he must have left his small wounds to heal naturally.’ I thought. He still stared at me. And I was filled with pity.
When my turn came to buy my snacks, I asked for two veg. burgers and two coffee and paid the bill. When my order was delivered I offered him one burger and the mug of hot coffee. He appeared pleased and gave me a wry smile and ate hungrily, all the while looking at me with kindness and delight in his eyes. He then thanked me.
I got up to go. He followed me, walking behind me, and somehow this was irksome to me. I didn’t want to walk with a beggar. I bought him his breakfast and with that it was all over. I doubled my speed and went out of the station to hail a taxi. He was there beside me in an instant.
“Where are you going, Madam?” he asked.
But without answering him I called for a taxi and got in and the taxi sped along the road towards JB Hospital.
The hospital had an aura of a five star hotel. At the reception, I said I was called for an interview. The lady smiled and nodded and checked in her computer and asked me to go to fifth floor to the Neurology Department and meet the Dean Dr. Ambrosio.
I went up the lift, praying that there shouldn’t be a crowd waiting for the interview. I did not want too many competitors. But, to my relief there weren’t many just one lady much older in age and probably in experience too. Comparatively I stood a better chance. She was called in first. I sat down and looked around. How clean and sparkling the place looked! I adjusted my hair and quickly daubed a little powder around my nose and darkened my lipstick; the compact-powder mirror reflected a pretty girl that was I. I smiled to myself. ‘If I get a job here I will be punctual and hardworking. I will go some extra mile and help the patients.’ I thought and almost went into my imaginary world, walking into the ward with a loud good morning to all, smiling at the patient, joking with another, trying to coax a child to take her tablets, helping someone to walk, consoling a young parent, silencing a talkative old man, laughing with another child and bidding her bye on her discharge…..
Just then the lady candidate came out and walked away as fast as she could.
I was called in. I went in and was a little dazed to see such a beautiful, spacious and well lit room with venetian blinds and the Dean sitting there and smiling at me. He looked so familiar! Where had I seen him?
He was in his doctor’s white coat with a stethoscope around his neck. He stood up to proffer me a big welcome, extending his hand for a hand shake. I gave my hand and stared at him. He removed his white coat and put it on the armrest of his chair; I saw the same lustreless shirt with blood stains on it. The dishevelled hair was neatly combed and he looked more presentable.
‘Oh, my God, he was that same beggar!’
“Thank you, Juliana for your generosity in offering me breakfast this morning.”
“I’m sorry Sir…..I…..
“Dr. Ambrosio, that’s my name. I’m a Neurosurgeon and the Dean here. Please take your seat.”
I sat down and waited for his question. He swivelled his chair a little and asked me, “Did you really take me for a beggar in the morning?”
“I….er…yes. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I enjoyed your gesture. The surgery last night was an emergency which kept me awake the whole night, and I had no time for anything else. This morning when the patient’s condition stabilised, I shifted him to the ICU and left him in the care of my junior and was heading home for a bath and breakfast, and to catch up with some sleep. Just then I received a message from my brother that he was dropping in so I went to the station to pick him up but the train had reached before time and I missed him. That’s when I thought of having something in the cafeteria. I was debating whether I should or should not. And you gave me a treat. I recognised you as one of the potential candidates for the ‘Nurse’s’ post, from the photo you had attached to the application form. I had shortlisted you for the position myself. I then turned my car behind your taxi and overtook your taxi and came back here before you could. Otherwise this interview was assigned to my juniors and the Matron.”
He sighed and smiled.
“Now tell me Juliana, with your BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) Degree, which is very good, how would you derive your nursing judgement?”
“I will derive my nursing judgements from scientific knowledge and rely on procedures and standardized care plans which we have learnt in the core course.”
“Very well. What if I am a strict disciplinarian who is extremely deadline driven, time-management oriented, wouldn’t pull any punches, will you be able to cope?”
“Yes, Doctor. I will manage efficiently.”
“Since you already have a good academic record and also as an intern and have already worked as a staff nurse, I will appoint you as the Charge Nurse of the Neurology Ward to manage the whole ward. If you have any problems you can consult the Matron. I find good analytical and organisational skills in you; above all, you have a caring and sympathetic attitude.” he said.
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“You can collect your Appointment order and all other details regarding your job description, salary etc. from the HR Dept. Meet the Matron. She will brief you properly.”
He busied himself making a note and attaching it to my application form. He rang the bell and a boy walked in with absolute respect. He handed the file to him and told him to submit it in the HR Dept.
“How early can you join?”
“No, not maybe. Tomorrow for sure.”
“Okay, Doctor. I shall take charge from tomorrow.”
He got up again and extended his hand.
I had lots to tell my mom when I reached home. She enjoyed every word I said, and asked me to repeat the whole thing at least thrice.
“You got the job only because you are qualified and are competent, not because you bought him breakfast. He hasn’t done any favour on you. So please remember this.” she said brimming over with pride.
When the initial excitement wore off, I fell into my regular duties which involved admission and discharge of patients, scrutinizing and ordering medicines and supplies. While most of my duties centered on managerial and administrative activities, I did enjoy serving and taking care of the patients in the wards, cheering them up, and monitoring their recovery.
It wasn’t easy to work under Dr. Ambrosio. He was a perfectionist and a hard task master. People considered him a Human God. Success and pride never entered his head. Though he was down to earth, he was hard to please. He interacted with everyone alike. Sometimes I wondered if he had any emotions in him. He rarely appreciated anyone for any work. His expectations were too high and it was difficult to measure up to it but not impossible. He put duty before anything and everything. But because I understood him perfectly, we could get along wonderfully well without any problem. His dependency on me only increased as days went by.
Then suddenly one day so unromantically he proposed to me.
“My people at home are behind my blood to get married. And I think I like you the most. So what is your opinion if we get married?”
“It will be good, Doctor, I’m sure our marriage will work, we will be able to gel well.” I said trying to hide my sudden rush of emotion and excitement and laughter.
My mother was soaring high above seventh heaven, so thrilled and overjoyed. She made many plans for my marriage and implemented them within her means.
We got married in the simplest manner ever in the Parish church.
“Honeymoon is a waste of time,” he said.
“No, honeymoon is a must, Broos,” I said.
“Huh, Broos?” he asked, shocked.
“This is home my dear husband, not hospital, at home you will be my Broos. There in the hospital I will try to call you Doctor, if people are around.” I said. For the first time he blushed and I loved him for it. I kissed him on his cheek.
We went to Manali for a week, and strangely had a lovely time, for he left all the decision making to me!
And yes, we do visit that cafeteria once in a while and have burger and coffee.
I know I have taught him to laugh at jokes, read other story books, run on the sea shore, appreciate art, enjoy beauty, sing in the bathroom, take a vacation, play with kids, socialise with people, have parties at home, go on short picnics, and help in cooking, cleaning and putting order at home.